How Old Are You?

Tuesday 09/21/10

Today is my birthday and we're flying to England.  If I succeed in the attempt to swim the English Channel, I will be fifty-eight years old and the oldest member of the Dolphin Club to do so.  When I was in my twenty’s, fifty-eight seemed inconceivably ancient for a human being.  Fittingly, my sense of scale was stunted in the other direction as well.  World War II was a distant conflict and the Revolutionary War was nearly prehistoric.

My cognizance of time is much expanded now.  Roman history is relatively fresh compared to the days in 9000 BCE when England was still attached to the European land mass and the “English Channel/La Manche” was simply a large, watery indentation north of the Bay of Biscay.  And, thanks to the Dolphin and South End clubs, I know many vibrant and active people in their 70’s, 80's, and even 90’s.

John Selmer successfully swam the English Channel when he was fifty years old.  Duke Dahlin advanced that mark when he was fifty-five.  Sunny McKee just completed the Ironman Zurich Switzerland triathlon at the age of sixty-one.  Margaret Curtis ran the Pikes Peak Marathon last August in the time of 9:34:00 at the age of seventy.  This is just a smattering of age-defying athletic accomplishments of Dolphins selected from a potpourri of triathlons, double-century bike rides, and marathon swims.  The South End club has its own, commensurate list.

This is not to diminish achievements of the mind.  David Perlman of the San Francisco Chronicle is still writing incredibly lucid and fascinating science articles at the age of ninety.  But, swimming the English Channel is an athletic endeavour and the physical context dominates.  Somehow, the age-awareness deepens and enriches my perspective on “this mortal coil.”  And it makes me doubly determined to make every effort to reach France.


  1. Larry,

    You may be getting older, but the question is, are you crusty, yet?

    I remember a conversation we had about 25 years ago, around when you joined the Dolphin club, in which you described some of the more senior members. You were truly thrilled to be associating with them, and said something about how you couldn't wait to get old and crusty too.

    I think you're on your way!

  2. Hi Warren,

    As it turns out, most of the crusty Dolphins have died or retired from the club. With a couple of exceptions, the remainder are sweetie pies. In fact, I think some of them are in danger of advancing to bodhisattva status. They are my new role models. With Lindsay's firm, loving guidance, I hope to make progress.